To fix, repair, repaint, shine or do other things to something that isn't worthy - but you have to do it for one reason or another. Because the basic fact is no matter what you do to a turd - polish it, paint it, give it bling - it's still a turd, and there is nothing you can do about that underlying fact.
This is often encountered for people who restore antiques, or who work in older buildings or on old machines. It may not be practical to replace a piece of crap, and polishing a turd may be all you can do.
Polishing A Turd is different from nigger-rigging because nigger-rigging is just to get something operational with little regard to how it looks or runs in the long term. Polishing A Turd involves making something look and operate as best as it can, although both may be major problems because it was a piece of crap to begin with. A Rolls Royce can be nigger-rigged, but you would not call it polishing a turd (unless it is a real ghetto cruiser). Putting new tires on a Yugo and filling its gas tank is polishing a turd.
The 1942 Philco record changers were so bad, restoring them is only polishing a turd.
My friend is polishing a turd - he's rebuilding the engine in his 1976 Vega.
The elevator was constantly breaking down in the last place I worked. It was old and beat up, and repairs were no better than polishing a turd.
"You're just polishing a turd fixing that Pinto."
"More like jack up the horn and stick a car under it!"
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